Money troubles haunted tragic actor Robin Williams
Published 13/08/2014 | 02:30
Robin Williams was found hanged after telling friends he had "serious money troubles" and had sought treatment for depression in the weeks before his death, it emerged last night.
The 63-year-old actor, who was once reputed to be worth €95m, had complained of losing a large chunk of his fortune in alimony payments to his two ex-wives, and had been trying to sell his 600-acre ranch in California to raise much-needed funds.
Police said Williams had been found dead in a bedroom at his home by his personal assistant, and had cut his left wrist several times with a penknife before dying of asphyxiation.
Although Williams was famous for his hyperactive comedy brain, he had spent much of his life battling alcoholism, drug abuse and depression.
His final bout of depression, which several weeks in a rehabilitation clinic had failed to lift, may have been triggered in part by the cancellation of his latest television show The Crazy Ones in May, after just one series.
According to a family friend quoted by the US website Radar Online: "All he could talk about were serious money troubles. Robin was known for being so generous to his friends and family during the height of his success, and would help anyone out that needed it.
"There was also frustration that Robin expressed at having to take television and movie roles he didn't want to take, but had to for the pay cheque."
For the past two years he had been trying to sell his ranch in the Napa Valley near San Francisco, saying: "I just can't afford it any more."
Despite dropping the asking price from €26m to €21m, there had been no takers. He had even resorted to selling some of his collection of 50 bicycles to raise cash. One neighbour who saw him in the days before his death said he had become "a shell of himself" and looked "drawn and thin".
A friend of 30 years who saw him at dinner this week said "something did not seem right", though he added that the actor was known to suffer from mood swings.
Last September, Williams, who had moved into a relatively modest bungalow in Tiburon, near San Francisco, which he inherited from his mother in 2001, spoke about having to "downsize" his life and take roles to "pay the bills" following his divorces from Valerie Velardi in 1988 and Marsha Garces in 2008.
He said he was faced with the choice of a stand-up comedy tour, returning to television after 31 years, or taking roles in low-budget films for very low pay.
"The movies are good, but a lot of times they don't even have distribution," he said. "There are bills to pay."
He went on: "Divorce is expensive. I used to joke they were going to call it 'all the money' but they changed it to 'alimony'. It's ripping your heart out through your wallet."
Williams's divorces are reported to have cost him €25m, and he had put a substantial sum into trust funds for his three children, Zachary (31) Zelda, (25) and Cody (22).
Stellan Skarsgard, who appeared in the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting in 1997, said: "People take their own lives for many different reasons, and it's not unusual among comedians that the comedy is a way of keeping the darkness at bay. That may have been the case with him."
Williams's close friend and fellow comic actor Chevy Chase said: "Robin and I were great friends, suffering from the same little-known disease: depression. I never could have expected this ending to his life. I cannot believe this. I am overwhelmed with grief."
Lt Keith Boyd, assistant deputy chief coroner of Marin County, said Williams was last seen alive at 10.30pm local time on Sunday, when his wife Susan Schneider went to bed. She left the house at 10.30am yesterday assuming Williams was still asleep in another bedroom, and he was found dead by his personal assistant at 11.55am when there was no response to knocks on his bedroom door. Mr Boyd said the actor was found "clothed" with a bloodied pocket knife near him and with "several acute superficial transverse cuts" on the inside of his left wrist. He appeared to have been dead for some time.
Despite reports that no suicide note was found, Mr Boyd hinted that there may have been one, saying he was not prepared to discuss "the note, or a note".
He added that toxicology reports will take at least two weeks to prepare.
Williams overcame alcohol and drug addiction in the 1980s, and had remained sober apart from a spell when he began drinking again and went to rehab in 2006. In July he checked himself into the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Centre in Minnesota, which his spokesman said at the time was to "fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment" to staying sober.
In 2010 the actor said he had only thought seriously about suicide once, but told himself: "Have you noticed that things are pretty good even though you're not working right now?" (© Daily Telegraph, London)